Jeff Sessions and ACSH Agree On Opioids

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At the Council, we are intentionally apolitical, except when a particular medical or science issue requires that we address it. For example, during one of the debates preceding the Republican primary, the issue of vaccines came up. I graded the responses of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Rand Paul regarding vaccines. They did not do well. (See: Grading GOP Debaters On Vaccines: Dunce Caps Aplenty.)

No matter what you think of Jeff Sessions, he was right on the mark about one issue during his (ongoing) confirmation hearing—the urgency of addressing the real cause of the spike in opioid overdose deaths—heroin and fentanyl, which is smuggled into the country from Mexico. We were at the forefront of these discussions, most recently in my December 19th op ed in the New York Post (See; How the feds are fueling America’s opioid disaster).

But the op ed doesn't even begin to describe how far we were ahead of the pack on fentanyl. This past March I testified at an FDA hearing, at which I was astounded to see that, of the 15 speakers who gave testimony, not one other person even mentioned fentanyl, which I referred to as "The Devil In The Room". (See: ACSH Applauds Media Awareness Of The Fentanyl Crisis).

The following is from a transcript of Sessions' hearing:

The country is also in the throes of a heroin epidemic, with overdose deaths more than tripling between 2010 and 2014. Tripling nearly 50,000 people a year die from drug overdose. Meanwhile, illegal drugs flood across our southern border, and into every city and town in the country bringing violence, addiction and misery. We must not lose perspective when discussing these statistics. We must always remember that these crimes are being committed against real people, real victims. It is important that they are kept in the forefront of our minds in these conversations and to ensure that their rights are protected. So these trends cannot continue. 

Jeff Session, nominee for Attorney General. Senate confirmation hearing, January 10 2017.

Whether you love him, hate him, or have no opinion, Sessions is right on the money here. While patients are being denied necessary opioid medications (See: Opioid Denial: My Own Harrowing Experience), the real killers, especially fentanyl, relentlessly continue to flow into the country across our southern border.